Great Books and more

Standing On The Shoulders Of Giants

Does your child want to write about Beyoncé, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson or LeBron James for their Black History homework assignment? Are you a bit dismayed about this? If you are, the librarians of OPL want to reassure you not to worry. Many present day Black icons in American Culture are living history!

For example:

The Rock won his first undisputed WWF (not WWE yet) Championship on February 13, 1997, 23 years ago. He won his seventh and final championship on July 21, 2002, just 18 years ago. Beyoncé’s first solo album was released June 24, 2003, almost 17 years ago, and LeBron James was drafted to the Cleveland Cavilers that same year! Relatively speaking, 20 years ago is a long time ago for a kid, so consider allowing them to study those who inspires them.

Of course we understand many parents are not convinced children should be studying current celebrities for Black History month. Appreciating this perspective, allow us to recommend some pioneers in Black History who paved the way for those we enjoy today.



There was


There was




There was



Women's History Month

Girl Power Film Festival 2020Girl Power floral

Celebrate Women's History Month with a series of four films chronicling inspiring and trailblazing women!

  • 3/2 - What's Love Got to Do With It
    This autobiographical film is centered on the life of Tina Turner; her rise to fame and her fall from the idyllic American marriage.
  • 3/16 - Frida
    Salma Hayek stars as Mexican surrealist artist Frida Kahlo in this biopic, which chronicles her turbulent marriage to Diego Rivera, her political activism, and the severe pain she experienced following a bus accident.
  • 3/23 - On the Basis of Sex
    Future Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg launches her career fighting for gender equality by proving discrimination "on the basis of sex" is unconstitutional.
  • 3/30 - Harriet
    The incredible true story of Harriet Tubman, and her quest to lead hundreds of slaves to freedom on the Underground Railroad.

Mondays in March @ Eastmont Branch
Keywords: adults, films, movies, East Oakland


Women Bike Book ClubBook cover for the "the Mechanical Horse"

Let's explore the history of women in American cycling with Margaret Guroff's The Mechanical Horse: How the Bicycle Reshaped American LifeLearn how "women shed their cumbersome Victorian dresses—as well as their restricted gender roles—so they could ride. [...] Margaret Guroff demonstrates that the bicycle's story is really the story of a more mobile America—one in which physical mobility has opened wider horizons of thought and new opportunities for people in all avenues of life."

Thursday, 3/5 - 6pm-7:30pm @ Golden Gate Branch
Keywords: bikes, The Mechanical Horse, book club, Women Bike Book Club, North Oakland



Intro to Female Persian PoetsPersian Poetry

To celebrate Women's History Month, and to expand answer that was asked in our first session on Persian Poets, what about Persian female poets? In this session female poets, female feminist poets, modern feminism, and ancient Persia will be discussed.

Saturday, March 7 - 1pm-2:30pm @ Piedmont Avenue Branch 
Keywords: poetry, Persian, Persian poets, Persian authors, feminism, North Oakland, Piedmont

Button and Bookmark Making for Women's History MonthWomen's History Month graphic

Come make bookmarks and buttons featuring important and inspiring women. Use our artwork or create your own tribute to the important women in your life!

Saturday, March 7 - 1pm-4pm @ West Oakland Branch
Keywords: poetry, Persian, Persian poets, Persian authors, feminism, North Oakland, Piedmont

Black Women: Their Presence in the City of LightTomb of Josephine Baker

Journey with Oakland native Riki Stevenson, whose slide-illustrated presentation—Black Women: Their Presence in the City of Light—takes us across the landscapes of Paris, France. We explore places where African and African American females studied, created art, forged socio-political alliances, opened businesses, and at times made the famed City of Light their home. (This program is organized by Stevenson’s European-based company Black Paris Tours.)

Saturday, March 7 - 2pm-5pm @ African American Museum & Library at Oakland
Keywords: Black women, history, Black History, African American Women, African American history, culture, art, Paris, presentation, AAMLO

Women's History Trivia Nightvintage and outdated drawing of the female brain

Come test your trivia prowess and celebrate Women's History Month at a women's history-themed trivia night. Play solo or with a team. 6 people max per team. Eat snacks, learn, win prizes! Door at 5:30, trivia starts at 6pm. 

Tuesday, March 10 - 6pm-8pm @ Main Library
Keywords: trivia, women's history, games, adults, teens, Downtown Oakland, Lake Merritt



Meet Saadia Faruqi, author of the Yasmin! book series, & book giveawayBook cover for Yasmin! children

Come meet Saadia Faruqi, author of the popular Yasmin! series. Attendees will learn about the Yasmin! series in this fun, interactive presentation. Author, Saadia Faruqi, will also share her experiences growing up in Pakistan and talk about her journey as a writer. Pizza and refreshments will be served at 5:30. Presentation will begin at 6:00. FREE books will be signed and given away at the end of the presentation.  *Limited quantities of the books are available and are intended only for children in attendance at the program. One copy per child, please. First-come, first serve.  

Wednesday, March 11 - 5:30pm-7pm @ Main Library (Children's Room)
Keywords: children, kids, books, Pakistan, Yasmin!, food, free books, Children's books, family, Downtown Oakland, Lake Merritt



Shifting Culture Conversation Series: Race, Gender and Leadership with Shaana RahmanShifting Culture Conversation Series @ Main Library 

Shaana Rahman is a bicycle personal injury lawyer who runs her own firm, and is dedicated to tearing down barriers to women leading in business and succeeding in their careers. Hear Shaana's story and then join a guided discussion group on topics of race, gender, leadership in the workplace, and leadership in the bicycling movement. The Shifting Culture Conversation Series is presented in collaboration with Bike East Bay.  Bike East Bay promotes healthy, sustainable communities by making bicycling safe, fun and accessible.

Wednesday, March 11 - 6pm @ Main Library
Keywords: Shifting Culture, series, bikes, bicycles, business, professional, leadership, Bike East Bay, Downtown Oakland, Lake Merritt


Women and the Art of Meditationgraphic of dark head profile outline with a tree and roots within it

Learn how to rejuvenate yourself in our workshop, Women and the Art of Meditation. Part of AAMLO’s ongoing Festival of Knowledge, the session conducted by Josie Santiago focuses on “chair” yoga, relaxation techniques, aromatherapy, stress free music, and more.

Saturday, March 14 - 2pm-4pm @ African American Museum & Library at Oakland
Keywords: meditation, Festival of Knowledge, mindfulness, relaxation, health, adults, AAMLO, West Oakland, Downtown Oakland


The Girls in the Bandvintage black & white photograph of Black women with instruments

When the world told them they couldn't play, they did it anyway! They wiggled, they jiggled, they wore low cut gowns and short shorts, they kow-towed to the club owners and smiled at the customers…and they did it all, just to play the music they loved. THE GIRLS IN THE BAND tells the poignant, untold stories of female jazz and big band instrumentalists and their fascinating, groundbreaking journeys from the late 1920s to the present day. These incredibly talented women endured sexism, racism and diminished opportunities for decades, yet continue today to persevere, inspire and elevate their talents in a field that seldom welcomed them. This 2013 documentary is 88 minutes long. 

Tuesday, March 17 - 6pm-7:30pm @ Golden Gate Branch
Keywords: music, history, music history, women's history, Black history, African American history, arts, culture, jazz, documentary, North Oakland, Emeryville, South Berkeley

Shirley Chisolm: Unbought and Unbossed Film Screening

Recalling a watershed event in US politics, this Peabody Award-winning documentary takes an in-depth look at the 1972 presidential campaign of Shirley Chisholm, the first black woman elected to Congress and the first to seek nomination for the highest office in the land. Shunned by the political establishment and the media, this longtime champion of marginalized Americans asked for support from people of color, women, gays, and young people newly empowered to vote at the age of 18. Chisholm's bid for an equal place on the presidential dais generated strong, even racist opposition. Yet her challenge to the status quo and her message about exercising the right to vote struck many as progressive and positive. Official Selection at the Sundance International Film Festival and the SXSW Film Festival"A refreshing antidote to the opportunism and cynicism that rules the political roost inspiring tale of someone who made a difference." - James Greenberg, Hollywood Reporter

Tuesday, March 17 - 6pm-8pm @ Temescal Branch
Keywords: women's history, Black history, African American history, American politics, Black politicans, Women Politicians, documentary, North Oakland, Emeryville

Documentary Film Series: She's Beautiful When She's AngryFilm poster for "She's Beautiful When She's Angry"

Join us at the Dimond Branch for a series of documentary films on Wednesday evenings. Snacks will be provided and a brief discussion will follow each film. March's film is She's Beautiful When She's Angry, a documentary about the birth of the Women's Liberation Movement in the 1960's.

Wednesday, March 18 - 6pm-8pm @ Dimond Branch
Keywords: women's history, Women's Liberation Movement, 1960s, documentary, feminism, films, Dimond District, Fruitvale, East Oakland

In Praise of Our Mothers and GrandmothersBlack Female Project poster

Join AAMLO for a community discussion, In Praise of Our Mothers and Grandmothersorganized by BlackFemaleProjectThe discussion will include topics such as: kinship roles, mentorship, workplace dynamics, and community leadership. 

Saturday, March 21 - 2pm-4pm @ African American Museum & Library at Oakland
Keywords: Black Female Project, mothers, grandmothers, community, leadership, adults, AAMLO, West Oakland, Downtown Oakland


Women's History Month Film: A League of their OwnA League of their Own movie poster

Come celebrate Women's History month with us by watching the true story of two sisters who join the first female professional baseball league. Snacks will be provided but feel free to bring something to share!

Saturday, March 21 - 3pm @ Lakeview Branch
Keywords: movie, true stories, sports, baseball, women's baseball, film, women's history, Lake Merritt, Grand Lake






Lunch Hour with the DivasMaya Angelou receiving medal of honor from ex-President Obama

Take a break for Lunch Hour with the Divas. Selected documentary film screenings explore Black women in the arts and the struggle for freedom. 

  • Monday 3/23 & Tuesday 3/24 - Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise
  • Wednesday 3/25 & Thursday 3/26: Ida B. Wells: A Passion for Justice 

Monday, March 23 - Thursday, March 26  @ African American Museum & Library at Oakland
Keywords: movies, documentaries, Civil Rights, films, lunch time, AAMLO




Trailblazing Journalist Delilah Beasley & California's African American Historyblack & white portrait of Delilah Beasley

Join Liam O’Donoghue, host and producer of the East Bay Yesterday podcast, as he interviews writers Dana Johnson and Ana Cecilia Alvarez, authors of the new book, “Trailblazer : Delilah Beasley’s California.” Dana Johnson is a professor of English at the University of Southern California and author of the short story collection, "In the Not Quite Dark." Ana Cecilia Alvarez is a professor at California Institute of the Arts and serves as the Development and Communications Manager at Clockshop, a Los Angeles-based arts collective.

Tuesday, March 24 - 6pm-8pm @ Main Library
Keywords: Delilah Beasley, East Bay Yesterday, East Bay history, Black history, women's history, African American history,Dana Johnson, Ana Cecilia Alvarez, journalism


Women's History Month Craftdrawing of Mae Jemison, first black woman in space

Create your own refrigerator magnets featuring famous women from history! Best for ages 3 and up.

Wednesday, March 25 - 3:30pm @ Dimond Branch
Keywords: crafts, DIY, arts, creative, programs, Dimond, East Oakland, Fruitvale


Shifting Culture Conversation Series: Intersectional Issues in Biking With Childrentwo young children pose in front of a bike

Parents are uniquely focused on the next generation. A panel of parents will explore the intersectional issues faced by people biking with children or while pregnant. Then we'll engage in discussion that turns to these leaders for safer streets and more people-focused infrastructure. The Shifting Culture Conversation Series is presented in collaboration with Bike East Bay.  Bike East Bay promotes healthy, sustainable communities by making bicycling safe, fun and accessible.

Wednesday, March 25 - 6pm-8pm @ Main Library
Keywords: intersectional, bikes, cycling, bicycles, biking, children, pregnancy, motherhood, Bike East Bay, Downtown Oakland, Lake Merritt



Before I Was a Critic I Was a Human BeingBook cover for "Before I Was a Critic I was a Human Being"

Join us in March for our monthly book club featuring titles from Small Press Distribution. Pick up a free copy of our March book at the February Book Club meeting (2/26), or at the Main Library Reference desk starting on February 27 while supplies last. MARCH’S BOOK CLUB PICK: Before I Was a Critic I Was a Human Being by Amy Fung. Literary Nonfiction. Asian & Asian American Studies. Native American Studies. Women's Studies. BEFORE I WAS A CRITIC I WAS A HUMAN BEING is the debut collection of essays by Amy Fung. In it, Fung takes a closer examination at Canada's mythologies of multiculturalism, settler colonialism, and identity through the lens of a national art critic. Following the tangents of a foreign-born perspective and the complexities and complicities in participating in ongoing acts of colonial violence, the book as a whole takes the form of a very long land acknowledgment. Taken individually, each piece roots itself in the learning and unlearning process of a first-generation settler immigrant as she unfurls each region's sense of place and identity. 

Wednesday, March 25 - 5pm @ Main Library
Keywords: Amy Fung, Small Press Distribution, books, Asian studies, Native studies, women's studies, conversation, book club, Downtown Oakland, Lake Merritt



Berkeley Rep Talk: School Girls; Or, The African Mean Girlsstill image from School Girls; Or, The African Mean Girls play

By Jocelyn Bioh
Directed by Awoye Timpo
Main Season · Roda Theatre
March 19–May 3, 2020

“Modeling. That’s the plan after I graduate you know. Become the next Iman. College is cute, but I’m thinking about my future realistically.” Paulina, the reigning queen bee at Ghana’s most exclusive boarding school, has her sights set on the Miss Universe pageant and the glamorous life that’s sure to follow. But her plans and even her very reputation are shaken up when Ericka, a new student who’s strikingly beautiful and talented, captures the attention of the pageant recruiter—and Paulina’s hive-minded friends. Winner of the 2018 Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Play and the Outer Critics Circle John Gassner Award, School Girls; Or, The African Mean Girls Play is a biting comedy that tackles the universal issues of beauty and self-worth that face teenage girls across the globe.

Saturday, March 28 - 1pm-2pm @ Piedmont Avenue Branch
Keywords: Berkeley Rep, School Girls, plays, Ghana, African, Piedmont, Emeryville, North Oakland



Women's History Month Film: Queen of Katwe Queen of Katwe film poster

Come celebrate Women's History Month with us by watching the incredible true story of a Ugandan girl who sees her world rapidly change after being introduced to the game of chess in the Queen of Katwe. Snacks will be provided but feel free to bring something to share!

Saturday, March 28 - 3pm @ Lakeview Branch
Keywords: Queen of Katwe, true stories, chess, movies, films, Uganda, Lake Merritt, Grand Lake



Winter Reads!

Winter break is short and sweet; and it is nothing like a cold winter's day that makes you want to curl up in you favorite fuzzy socks, with a good book, while enjoying the seasonal festivities.  The biggest question is, what can you read that is quick and enjoyable?  Using our winter bingo card as a guide, we have some books for you to consider:

Remember that we want to you enjoy the break, it doesn't matter what you do. So if you enjoy

writing poems, 

telling jokes for big belly laughs,

or building with Legos

while singing and dancing,

 making magic,


or spashing in puddles,

We wish you all a fun and restful winter break and a happy new year! 

Children's Books about Ramadan and those featuring Muslims

Ramadan, the Muslim holy month, began this week, making it a good time to highlight recently published books about Ramadan and those that feature Muslims.

My wonderful colleague, Erica, wrote a great post in 2015 about books that feature Muslim characters.

In the few years since her post was published, the representation of Muslims in children’s books has increased.

Here is a list of some of those books.


Books about Ramadan:

Ramadan: the Holy Month of Fasting by Ausma Zehanat Khan

Amal’s Ramadan by Amy Maranville

Ramadan by Hannah Eliot

It’s Ramadan, Curious George by Hena Khan

Drummer Girl by Hiba Masood

A Moon for Mo and Moe by Jane Breskin Zalben

It’s Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr by Richard Sebra


Additional children's book titles about Ramadan can be found here.



Picture Books:

Under my Hijab by Hena Khan (on order)

Crescent Moons and Pointed Minarets by Hena Khan

Mommy’s Khimar by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow

Yo Soy Muslim by Mark Gonzales



Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan

Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga (on order)

The Gauntlet by Karuna Riazi

Escape from Aleppo by N.H. Senzai

Museum Mysteries featuring Amal Farah by Steven Brezenoff


Early Readers: (Fiction for beginning readers)

Zayd Saleem, Chasing the Dream by Hena Khan


Moving Up: (Fiction at about the 2nd - 4th grade levels)

Yasmin series by Saadia Faruqi



Proud: Young Readers Edition by Ibtihaj Muhammad

Becoming Kareem: Growing Up On and Off the Court by Kareem Abdul-Jabaar

Malala: Activist for Girls' Education by Raphaële Frier


Father's Day Books that Aren't Hop on Pop

For Kids


Franny's father is a feminist by Rhonda Leet

Daddies who are feminist allies are just the best.

Oh, oh, baby boy! by Janine Macbeth

A loving celebration of brown dads and babies.

My daddy rules the world : poems about dads by Hope Anita Smith

Poems about all kinds of dads.

Harriet gets carried away by Jessie Sima

Harriet's daddies have lost her to a crew of penguins! Will she make it to her birthday party?

Two white rabbits, by Jairo Buitrago

The journey from Central America to the United States through the eyes of a child traveling with her father.

My dad used to be cool by Keith Negley

Dad used to be in a band, get tattoos... why did he stop being so cool?!

For Grownups


Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

What does it mean to be a Black man in America? A personal and historical exploration of race that takes the form of a letter from father to son.

Fairyland: A Memoir of my Father by Alysia Abbott

A tribute to Abbott’s father, who was a devoted single dad, creative force and gay man who raised her in 1970s and 80s San Francisco.

Goodbye Vitamin by Rachel Khong

Ruth Young decides to move home to be with her father Howard, a history professor falling under the grip of Alzheimer’s disease. A novel that is tender, funny and poignant.

The Heart’s Invisible Furies: a novel by John Boyne

The story of Cyril Avery, born in post-World War II Dublin to an unmarried teenager and adopted by well-off but unusually aloof parents. Cyril comes of age and tries to come to terms with being gay in an extremely repressive society, finding love, family and unconventional fatherhood in a story that is loaded with both pain and humor.

Pops by Michael Chabon

A brand-spanking-new collection of essays from the local acclaimed author with reflections about his father and being a parent to four children.

Rad Dad: Dispatches from the Frontiers of Fatherhood edited by Tomas Moniz and Jeremy Adam Smith

Essays by authors, musicians and other thinkers selected from among the best from Rad Dad Magazine and the Daddy Dialectic blog.

Wonder how a book ends up on the shelf? Let me tell ya.

Child choosing a book off the shelfHave you ever wondered how books end up on the shelves in your library? There’s a whole process behind how librarians select books, and it’s not even a secret!

The Oakland Public Library spends approximately $2,000,000 on materials each year, which includes about 50,000 books. While libraries’ capacity for knowledge, information, and creativity is limitless, our buildings and shelf space are not. Every library practices regular weeding of collections for the simple reason that one can’t put new books on the shelves if there is no room.

I’d like to share with you a great example of how we keep our collection updated. 

A book on Fannie Lou Hamer was withdrawn from Elmhurst Branch. Here’s how that decision was made: The children’s librarian worked closely with classes coming in from neighborhood schools, and realized that the children asking for biographies were younger than the intended audience for some of the biographies she had on her shelf. The book that was withdrawn was a chapter book for readers in middle school, and she was fielding biography requests primarily from third to fifth graders. The children’s librarian had just purchased a phenomenal new title: Voice of Freedom, Fannie Lou Hamer, spirit of the Civil Rights Movement, written by Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrated by Ekua Holmes. Published in 2015, Voice of Freedom was a Caldecott Honor book, a Robert F. Sibert Honor book, and the winner of the John Steptoe Award for New Talent in Illustration

cover of voice of freedom by carole boston weatherford

Both the author and illustrator are African-American, one a longstanding author of high esteem among African-American writers of children’s books, the other a breathtaking newcomer who has since published another book--Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets, written by Kwame Alexander—and contributed art to the book Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Black Boy by Tony Medina. (Both of these books are widely held at OPL, and both are available from the Elmhurst Branch.)

cover of out of wonder by kwame alexander  cover of thirteen ways of looking at a black boy by tony medina

The Fannie Lou Hamer book that was discarded was of a different reading level than the children seeking biographies at Elmhurst, and was part of a corporate-issued educational series on history, written by David Rubel, a White author.

A large branch, for example, might keep multiple books on historical figures. Elmhurst, however, is one of OPL’s smallest branches, a tiny building that resembles a house nestled in the Elmhurst community. The Elmhurst children’s collection is about 1/7 the size of that of the Main Library Children’s Room. With such a small size and excellent new books coming in continuously, there’s generally only room for books that are in current demand. The Elmhurst children’s librarian determined that Voices of Freedom was a better fit for the children at Elmhurst seeking to learn about Fannie Lou Hamer than the book that was discarded. However, for those who do wish to read this book, it is currently available at the Brookfield Branch, Rockridge Branch, and there are three copies at the Main Library Children’s Room.

At OPL, children’s, teen, and adult librarians in each branch select the books for their communities. That means that the person choosing children’s books at every site is also the person who talks with neighbors, welcomes classrooms full of children, visits schools, researches books for local teachers, and sings songs with neighborhood toddlers. Librarians get to know their community as part of their job, and are the best people in the library system to choose the books for their site.

I train all our children’s librarians on selection, and build carts of titles for them to choose from each month. I consider every single children’s book being published each month, reading reviews and other information about the books on the site we order from. I divide them up by sections like the ones we use at OPL—board books, graphic novels, picture books, etc. Then I look for “highlights,” books that are special and our librarians should strongly consider purchasing. I highlight each and every title that features characters who are people of color, and I note when those titles have authors or illustrators who are people of color (we call these books “own voices” in children’s literature). I do a monthly presentation and printed list for children’s librarians of books I think are especially important to order, and this always includes titles that represent diversity. After orders are submitted, I go through each cart and make sure we are buying every excellent book that represents diversity--if not, I add them.

Woman reading a poetry book to children

OPL maintains bibliographies of recommended children’s books, and in the last couple years, we have created new lists of titles for a range of young readers: Great African-American, Asian-American, Latino, LGBTQ, Differently Abled, Multiracial, and Native American and First Nations Books for Children. When we update these lists, we also do a bulk order of titles on them so every branch can make sure they have the diverse books we recommend to kids. When we make bibliographies that are not centered in race and identity, such as Books for Third and Fourth Graders, we put physical copies of the books together and look at them in person to make sure we’re including primarily books with diverse authorship.

Even if Oakland were not among the most diverse cities in America, diversity would be a priority in our collections. Children’s librarians are trained to meet the standards set in the Competencies for Librarians Serving Children in Public Libraries, a set of guidelines published by ALSC, the Association of Library Service to Children. The first two tenets of these guidelines are:
1. Demonstrates respect for diversity and inclusion of cultural values, and continually develops cultural awareness and understanding of self and others.
2. Recognizes racism, ethnocentrism, classism, heterosexism, genderism, ableism, and other systems of discrimination and exclusion in the community and its institutions, including the library, and interrupts them by way of culturally competent services.

We talk often about the idea by Rudine Sims Bishop that children need “mirrors and windows” in books, and we strive to purchase books by people of color, LGBTQ people, people with disabilities, and Native and First Nations people as much as possible.

And most importantly--we love getting suggestions! Does OPL not yet have your favorite book? Since the person who buys books for your local branch also works at that branch, you can suggest it the next time you visit, or Suggest a Purchase online. Let us know what we can buy for you!

Kids Bike: A Booklist from the Women Bike Book Club

Did you know that the Oakland Public Library co-hosts a Women Bike Book Club with Bike East Bay? We gather to discuss biking, feminism, and the intersection of the two on the second Thursday of each month at 6:00pm, at our Golden Gate Branch (5606 San Pablo Avenue). The book club was started by Bike East Bay as part of their Women Bike initiative, which brings women and gender nonconforming folks together in social settings to share experiences and resources with each other. 

Ok so the book club sounds awesome but why are we talking about that here?

Our meeting on November 9th will focus on children’s books! We'll have some great selections of bike-related children's literature, and we'll talk about moms, biking, and the next generation of cyclists. Join us to enjoy beautiful illustrations, good conversation, and maybe even pick up some gift ideas for the little feminists in your life. 

If you can’t join us, here are the books we’ll be looking at:

Picture books

Cover of Mei Mei loves the morning              cover of A Bike Like Sergios

Mei-Mei loves the morning by Margaret Tsubakiyama

The girl and the bicycle by Mark Pett

New Red Bike by James Ransome

A Bike Like Sergio’s by Maribeth Boelts

Along a Long Road by Frank Viva


cover of Tillie the Terrible Swede            Cover for Wheels of Change

Tillie the terrible Swede : how one woman, a sewing needle, and a bicycle changed history by Sue Stauffacher  

Wheels of change: how women rode the bicycle to freedom (with a few flat tires along the way) by Sue Macy 

Chapter Book

Cover for the green bike

The green bicycle by Haifaa Al Mansour 


On Saturday May 6th 2017 visit ANY OAKLAND PUBLIC LIBRARY during open hours and get a free comic book. Eastmont and Brookfield branches are closed on Saturday so you can get yours tomorrow: Friday May 5th.

Someone might be asking: is this like giving away candy? They are fun to read but bad for you if you have too much of it? Nope! Actually comic books are more like giving away free homemade carrot cake muffins made with applesauce instead of oil; and you snuck some shredded zucchini in it. All the fun and flavor of a tasty treat, and it’s good for you too. So enjoy. 

What, you don’t believe me? Is it that you don’t believe that I have a really delicious recipe for a healthier carrot cake muffin, or that comic books are a good reading choice? Both are true.  To quote my favorite book referral resource, “but you don’t have to take my word for it.” Check out these links for more information:


Right now someone’s mind is...

What? You have comic books that teach grown-ups about the benefits of comic books? But of course! There is no better way to illustrate that accurate, timely, factual, current, or interesting content is not suddenly eliminated because the material is placed in picture frame format. But none of the reasons the doctors and researchers give for reading comic books are why I want your kids to read comic books. Okay yes they are, but it’s not the biggest reason.

The biggest reason I want your kids (and you) to read comic books is because they are fabulous. The character development, plots, and storylines are complex, engrossing, and straight out some of the best stuff you and your kids will EVER read. Reason number two that I want you to read comic books with your kids is the next Guardians of the Galaxy movie is coming out tomorrow, and it would help if you know who Groot is before your kids drag you to the theater.  

So remember Saturday May 6th is Free Comic Book day at the Oakland Public Library. (Friday at the Brookfield and Eastmont branches.) Come to the library and get yours.

And get a new library card while you are at it. They have cool designs, but that is another blog post. 

Just Read!

It is my rare evening alone without my children.  I decide to go to the local Mermaid Cafe for my favorite pseudo-Italian caffeinated beverage and read a new book by my favorite author; one that I have been anticipating for months. 

While enjoying this book and sipping my caffeine a random person approaches me to criticize my reading selection and ask if I have read the latest Michael Eric Dyson book. When I state I have no interest in reading Mr. Dyson's book, this person tells me I should put my "drivel" away and “learn something.” That Mr. Dyson will "enlighten me" and his book is "good for me."  So I reply:

“You have inaccurately deduced that I am socially and politically antiquated based on my recreational literature selections. Furthermore you have deduced based on my preferred leisure activity that I am academically deficient. It is quite abhorrent of you to assign yourself authority to malign my literature selections, and reassign materials you ascertain more appropriate. Your sentiments are objectionable and unsolicited. Take your leave, sir!”

The person looked at me with a confused expression and said: “huh?” 

For those of you who do not want to grab a dictionary I basically used a lot of big words to say: "you are assuming I'm dumb and not "woke" because of what I chose to read for fun. That’s rude, I didn’t ask your opinion, and leave me alone.”

If you are unfamiliar with Mr. Dyson and his work, you may not understand how snarky my reply was. I borrowed Mr. Dyson's persona to reply to this rude stranger in Mermaid Cafe. Mr. Dyson likes big words.   He delights, educates, and entertains by using multisyllabic words in his books and speaking engagements. He also talks about race relations and politics alot.  

I may not read Mr. Dyson, but unbeknownst to the stranger I know who he is, and I respect his talents and body of work. I’ll even happily recommend his books to others. His topics of expertise is just not something I'll read for fun. 

So what does this story have to do with kids? 

Some parents are guilty of belittling their children’s reading choices, just like that stranger did to me; yet unlike me, children do not have the authority to contradict their parents and defend their reading preferences. 

For example have you heard a parent say?

  • That book is too easy for you.
  • You read too many comic books; you need to read a “real book.”
  • Why are you always reading _____________ series? Can’t you find something else?
  • Ugh. (eye roll) That book again.                                                               

My professional recommendation: Stop that. Just stop it and let the kid read what they want.


I want your kid to FALL IN LOVE WITH READING. I want your kid to read not because they have to for homework, but because reading becomes vital nourishment to their souls.  The only way for a child to fall in love with reading is to be allowed to freely read whatever they want.  I am speaking from experience when I tell you that just like adults, children have different preferences about what they read for fun. Some kids like graphic novels while other kids will enjoy poetry. It doesn't matter. Unlike, food, there is no such thing as a "bad book." 

 I can provide you with so many professional papers written by experts explaining how reading for fun makes your child smarter, healthier, happier, and a better person. But this blog is already getting too long. So trust me on this one. 

Okay fine, don't trust me. You can read a lenghy report titled "Reading For Pleasure -- A Door To Success from the National Library of New Zealand on the subject, or this brief but equally factual report titled Kids and Family Reading Report from Scholastic.

If you don't want to read either report I'll quote two very important facts:

  • “89% of kids ages 6-17 agree ‘My favorite books are ones I have picked out myself”
  • "A majority of kids pick out the books they read for fun at least most of the time (63%) and 88% say that they are more likely to finish books that they pick out."

So to rephrase: 1. Kids know what they want to read. 2. Kids will finish the books (aka actually read the books) they pick out for themselves.

Reading for pleasure is a big deal. Children benefit greatly academically, emotionally, etc when they fall in love with reading, and read regularly for fun.  Besides, I learned my big words from reading “drivel,” not from any of my homework assignments.

Often, the comments some parents make about a kid’s reading choices are demoralizing. If a child loves Goosebumps (or any series) and the parent has a poor opinion of Goosebumps, the child may not read them. However the child may not read anything else either. In turn the child learns to view reading as an uninteresting chore, something they are forced to do, and an activity they never find any pleasure in, even when they reach adulthood.

Before you panic, understand a love of reading does not measure intelligence or potential. The children who do not love reading will succeed in school, grow up and have good jobs, raise beautiful families, and have wonderful friendships and memories. But they won’t read for fun as children or adults, and will lose the benefits that come with reading for fun and making it a lifelong habit.

So let your kids develop a love of reading and allow them read what they want without judgment.  If your 10-year-old prefers Goosebumps to The Crossover just go with it.  The more kids read what they like, the more they will read.  Take it from a librarian who reads “drivel.” Your kids will be fine. 

Black History Homework

Library Kid:   I have the hardest person EVER!!!!

Me: Who? 

Library Kid: I'll never find annnnnnything on herrrr... 

Me: Who?

Library Kid: Fannie Lou Hamer. 

Me: What about this book?  ( I pulled it out of our newly created Black History Books Display) 

Library Kid:  umm.... I wrote my report already.

Me: Really? Okay well you should take the book now anyway. Because if you "lose" your report before it's due the book might not be here.

Library Kid: 

This conversation and many more can be enjoyed by you and your child if you run to your nearest library and get the homework assignment book NOW. Odds are your child's teacher has already assigned your student the person they are required to study. Don't delay. But if you come later in the month and the books you need are all checked out, our online resources are ready to assist you!  And please pretty please for the love of accuracy and facts don't just "Google it". Ask a librarian to help you, or get started with the websites below. 

Biography in Context: An Oakland Public Library Database

You will need library card number and pin is required to use Biography in Context if you are not using a library computer.

African American Inventors

National Museum of African American History and Culture

National Geographic Kids: Black inventors and Pioneers of Science